Orioles' Showalter won't 'tip my hand' when it comes to changing lineup

Manager says, 'I still like the potential of what our lineup could bring'

April 26, 2011|By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun

There comes a time, Orioles manager Buck Showalter said, to mix up an offensive formula that isn't working. That time is not yet here, and he won't be giving reporters advance notice if and when he tinkers with his lineup.

"I wouldn't tip my hand if I was [considering changes]," Showalter said. "[The players] certainly don't need to be seeing and reading and whatever about it. I trust them, but they understand, at some point, we are going to have to be a little better."

Heading into Tuesday's series opener against the Boston Red Sox, the Orioles were last in the American League in hits and walks, second to last in runs scored and on-base percentage and 12th of 14 teams in the league in batting average and total bases.

No. 2 hitter Nick Markakis hit .208 with a .279 on-base percentage and a .312 slugging percentage in his first 20 games. No. 3 hitter Derrek Lee had just one homer and two RBIs in his first 76 at-bats, and cleanup hitter Vladimir Guerrero and No. 5 hitter Luke Scott had combined for five homers and 13 RBIs.

"To hang it all around one person? No. We have had periods where we have done well offensively and will again. I hope it starts tonight," Showalter said. "But I am not going to certainly be threatening or talking about what some of the thoughts are. But I still like the potential of what our lineup could bring."

Lee said Showalter's decision to stick with the lineup instills confidence in the hitters. But that can go only so far.

"He knows what we have done in the past. With that being said, our job is to win games right now," Lee said. "Sooner or later, if you are not getting the job done, something is going to happen. We all know that. I think he may be giving us a little longer leash, I guess. Hopefully, we can make it pay off for him."

Injured pitchers progressing

Completing another step in his rehabilitation, left-hander Brian Matusz (intercostal strain) played catch in the outfield Tuesday, then threw 15 to 20 pitches from the midway point of the bullpen mound. He is expected to throw a conventional bullpen session Thursday, tossing 30 to 35 pitches and mixing in his full arsenal.

"The pain is gone. I want to keep it that way, just got to build my way back up as soon as possible without taking it too far too fast," said Matusz, who was put on the disabled list before his first scheduled start this season.

Tuesday was his first time getting onto the mound to throw — and he was so jazzed that he fist-pumped bullpen catcher Ronnie Deck after the session.

"Yeah, I was bumping guys, giving them a fist pump here and there, because, yeah, I was excited," Matusz said. "Everything feels good. I feel like I'm in a good place healthwise."

In other injury news, right-hander Chris Jakubauskas, on the DL with a strained right groin, threw a bullpen session Tuesday and "is close to being ready to pitch," Showalter said. Jakubauskas will throw another bullpen Thursday and could go on a rehab assignment afterward. Eligible to come off the DL on May 2, he could be activated then or optioned to Triple-A.

Showalter said shortstop J.J. Hardy (strained oblique) showed "no repercussions" after doing baseball activities Monday and on Tuesday "went from dry swings to increasing the intensity of the swings." A timetable for Hardy's return is not set.

Righty Chris Tillman (sore right groin) will throw a bullpen session Wednesday and is on line to pitch Saturday against the Chicago White Sox.

Rupe comments on A-Rod

Reliever Josh Rupe, who allowed a grand slam to the New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez on Saturday night, was interviewed by a radio station in his hometown of Virginia Beach, Va., on Monday, and Rodriguez came up.

On "Johnny D and the 757 Club" on 102.1 FM and 1490 AM, Rupe was asked about Rodriguez's reputation for doing things to irritate the opposition — such as running across the mound after an out — and Rupe said the Yankees slugger could be "kind of a jerk" to get into the heads of other players.

One of the show's hosts provided Rupe with a derogatory phrase to describe Rodriguez, and Rupe agreed and repeated it. When asked about the interview Tuesday, Rupe said he didn't mean anything by the comments.

"I know those [radio] guys; they are guys that say that about a lot of different people," Rupe said. "I said he was a great player and does a lot of great things. And the conversation was basically, he does some things that are kind of that way — and I agreed."

It was a "joking conversation," Rupe said, and he wasn't providing billboard material for one of the Yankees' best hitters.

"I am not trying to fuel any fires. I don't want to do any of that. They were kind of going there, and I agreed," Rupe said. "But I also said that a lot of people are that way and a lot of people do a lot of great things and a lot of people do certain things that could be considered [jerk-like], including myself."

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